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Published on Monday, December 18, 2023

Practice safe food handling this holiday season

By Evelyn Hodgkin,

Public Health Inspector

 

When I think about the holiday season, there are many things that put a smile on my face.

One is the warm hugs from relatives and friends that I will be seeing.

But, as a Public Health Inspector, I can’t help but to also think about the number of people who will be getting sick because of improper food-handling practices. Let’s call it a consequence of the work I do on a daily basis.

According to Health Canada, one in eight Canadians (four million people) get sick annually from contaminated food. More than 11,500 hospitalizations and 240 deaths are linked each year to food-related illnesses.

So, how do we ensure these numbers don’t go up during the holiday season?

Here are some basic food handling tips to keep in mind as you’re preparing your turkey dinner or any other meals or snacks during the holiday season.

  1. Clean. Begin with clean surfaces, clean utensils, clean cutting boards, clean sinks and, of course, clean hands. The importance of handwashing was reiterated plenty of times during the past two years, but it also applies to food safety. Why? Because handwashing helps to prevent the spread of disease. Wash your hands before, during, and after food preparation, especially after handling uncooked meat, chicken, turkey, ham, etc. Also, don’t forget to rinse fresh fruit and veggies. Having said that, please don’t wash raw chicken/roast/fish/turkey in the sink as you will be spreading their juices and bacteria all over the sinks and counters.
  2. Separate. Separate raw foods, like raw turkey, from ready-to-eat foods, like fresh fruit and vegetables. One way to do this is by having colour-coded cutting boards. For example, use one colour of cutting board for raw chicken and a different coloured cutting board for slicing fruit.
  3. Cook. Cook foods to proper internal temperatures. To do this, you will need to have a properly functioning probe thermometer at home. The internal temperature for a roast should be 71oC (160oF); for ham, 71oC (160oF); for fish, 70oC (158oF); and for turkey, 82oC (180oF). If you’re curious about other internal cooking temperatures, visit www.canada.ca and, in the search area, type “safe cooking temperatures.”
  4. Chill. And I’m not talking about calming yourself down during the hubbub of the holidays. One way is to ensure that your fridge is set at 4oC (40oF) or below. Cooling foods properly before they go in the fridge is also very important. One way to achieve this is by packaging warm or hot foods into shallow containers before placing them in the fridge. Lastly, it is important to thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator or under cold running water, but never on the counter at room temperature.
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Categories: Your Health, Eating Well

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